Declining apprenticeship numbers to compound Australia’s skills shortage

by Victoria Bruce18 Apr 2016
Australia’s workforce has 8,600 fewer people starting apprenticeships and traineeships compared to last year, prompting alarm from the small business community over a growing national skills shortage.

The number of people commencing an apprenticeship or traineeship in September 2015 compared to the same time in 2014 has dropped 19.3%, according to data from by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told HC Online that the results were “disturbing” and demonstrated a crisis within the skilled training sector.

“It’s a disturbing number,” Strong says.

“Unfortunately, its becoming far too expensive for employers to take on apprenticeships.”

Strong says more incentives are needed for employers to take on apprentices – otherwise the figures are likely to tumble even further.

He says HR managers need to pro-active in determining whether their business has training requirements that would be suitable for traineeships and what return on investment could be achieved by the organisation.

“HR really needs to make sure the training meets the needs of the organisation and that return on investment is there for the organisation,” he says.

He says the current training system isn’t providing confidence for small businesses due to growing costs and questionable quality of training.

Instead of funding going from the government to registered training organisations (RTOs), Strong says funding should be channelled through appropriate industry associations that deal directly with employers of apprentices and trainees.

“Right now, the ways subsidies are provided has made it more expensive for the employer to take on an apprentice, as employers don’t get return on their investment for a while,” he says.

HR managers who want to seek funding for their employee’s development often become frustrated at the lack of clarity, writes Dr Denise Meyerson from Management Consultancy International.

While funding is available for all registered Australian companies that hold an ABN number, companies are only eligible to share in the funding that relates specially to their industry.

HR managers should be aware that only training which leads to a nationally recognised qualification attracts funding, Meyerson writes.
He advises HR managers seeking to engage apprentices in their organisation to be pro-active in determining:
  • Is there a need for training in the organisation that would be appropriate for traineeships?
  • How would the roll-out plan work under the organisational constraints?
  • Is it possible for the organisation to comply with the legal obligations stipulated?
  • Will the individuals benefit from the training roll-out?
  • What return on investment could be achieved and how will this be measured?
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